Metallic gas pipes might sound like church bells out of tune, but that is exactly why percussionist Sascia Pellegrini will be using them. Wooden blocks, marble pieces, and a variety of tiles will also feature in his recital at the Chinese University on Thursday.
"I rarely use existing instruments in my performances," the 42-year-old Italian composer-musician says. "When you see a piano on stage, it doesn't matter what kind of music is to be played - jazz, pop, classical, contemporary - you know how it sounds already.
"But when you see a table with pipelines and pieces of wood and metal on it, you don't know what to predict. So you are more attentive and curious ... You have to open your ears and focus on listening."
His percussion sets resemble turntables and Pellegrini looks more like a club DJ than a classically trained pianist with his casual, rugged appearance.
Though he's still using the piano to compose, Pellegrini says he is tired of the instrument he started to learn at age five.
"Even though the piano is still a beautiful instrument to me, it can't be manipulated too much as its pitches are fixed."
While studying composition at a conservatory in Italy, Pellegrini came across electronic and contemporary music.
Inspired by new sounds, he first started to explore the drums, marimba and vibraphone, then gradually began to experiment with everyday objects in his performances.
Pellegrini was keen to build instruments out of unconventional materials.
"One piece of metal can't be music. I need 10 different pieces of metal to invent something melodic," he says.
"It works like Lego."
Pellegrini likens being a percussion soloist to the physicality of dance performance.
"There are usually so many instruments in percussion solo pieces. Like dancers, I'm required to maintain a good balance in my body because I have to be flexible and move a lot," he says.
It was dance, not music, that brought the artist to Hong Kong. During his holiday in the city in November 2010, Pellegrini was introduced by a dancer friend to Victor Ma Choi-wo and Mandy Yim Ming-yin, founders of the Y-Space dance company. They invited him to work with the group that month.
That show brought him opportunities to perform in more than 30 shows over the next three years, collaborating with organisations including the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, Hong Kong Arts Centre and City University's School of Creative Media.
Last month, he played at the West Kowloon Cultural District's Freespace Fest, as part of a project that charted a century of Hong Kong history.
Having had many chances to work with artists from other disciplines, Pellegrini has gained the experience to develop his own choreography and videos.
"Still, I see myself as a musician," says the percussionist.
He pauses and then adds: "But also a musician who writes and plays music at the same time, and who designs his own shows."
Sascia Pellegrini, Thur, Jan 23, 8pm, Lee Hysan Concert Hall, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sha Tin, free. Inquiries: 3943 6510